By J. K. Schmid, Special to the AFRO
A former Baltimore rector will speak at the royal wedding at Windsor Castle in England on Saturday.
Michael Bruce Curry, Primate and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, served 12 years as rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Baltimore, from 1988 to 2000.
Born 1953 in Chicago, Illinois, Curry attended public schools in Buffalo, New York. He attained a Masters in Divinity from Yale; going on to study at Princeton, Wake Forest and the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.
He was ordained a priest in 1978, ministering to St. Stephens, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In 1982, he became rector of St. Simon in Cyrene, Lincoln Heights, Ohio.
A St. James delegation traveled to Ohio in search of a new rector to replace Rev. Donald Wilson, who had retired in 1986.
“We were in awe,” senior warden Dr. Charlene Griffin told the AFRO. She and her companion, Candace Simms, returned to Baltimore resolved.
“On the way back, between the two of us, we were trying to determine how could we get the members of St. James to understand that this is the person that we need as our rector,” Griffin said. “It was just that tremendous, in hearing him.”
Curry’s distinction at the time was his evangelical style.
“He came down from the altar, he walked the floor as he talked to us, he wore his microphone, he was enthusiastic about everything,” Griffin said. “Everything he shared with us.”
Curry’s approachability also defined his moments between delivering the Gospel.
“There was no problem in getting to talk with him or having him show the interest that parishioners were interested in having, when they talked or were with their rector or their priest,” Griffin said.
In 2000, Curry was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. In 2015, he was elected in the first ballot to preside as bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church. It will be as the leader of a territory of the Anglican Communion that spans across the United States, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Taiwan and Micronesia. Curry is the first Black presiding bishop and primate.
“I heard him say that when he got elected, he would be the ‘CEO of the Episcopal Church,’ and went on to say ‘Chief Evangelism Officer,’ said Father Charles Cloughen, an Episcopal priest and friend and colleague of Curry from seminary school. “But that’s how he was, he’s very big on evangelism, the Jesus Movement, and presenting a living Jesus Christ to the world around him.”
Curry’s unique charismatic style, emblematic of the Jesus Movement, likely stems from the Baptist and Episcopal traditions shared by his parents, Cloughen says.
“His presence is incredible,” Cloughen told the AFRO. “I credit part of that to his Baptist grandmother. His father was an Episcopal priest. They went to a church in the South and Communion was to be done and the Episcopal Church would practice a common chalice. And his father was not Episcopalian, but his wife went up and took Communion and he thought they’ll never give her the same chalice that White people are going to be drinking from.”
“His father sat there, and said ‘Oh my God, what’s gonna happen now?’ Cloughen continued, recounting Curry’s story of his father. “‘Will we be asked to leave? What’s going on?’ And the priest gave her the wine from the common chalice.”
Curry is one of several speakers at the May 19 wedding of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle, whose mother is African American and father is White. Curry’s mission and evangelism will cross the Atlantic in the coming days, but he has a history of crossing denominations here in the United States.
“The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God, and is the key to life and happiness. And so we celebrate and pray for them today,” Curry said in a statement.
Upon assuming rectorship of St. James, Curry initiated a revival.
“The revivalist was from the AME church,” Griffin said. “It was Dr. John Bryant who came as the revivalist. That’s how open [Curry] was, that’s how involved he was in the community and we continued that even after he left. Probably because we were still thinking of the influence that he had on us. Probably thinking, we wanted to make him proud of us, also.”
“He’s a truly spiritual leader, a gifted and person who clearly knows God,” Alice Pinderhughes, Chancellor of St. James told the AFRO. “He always was a very upright person and always concerned about people. He always put the church, always put St. James above everything else.”